Filings: There’s Still Time

I spent a lot of time in hospitals last week, some of it in an emergency room and some of it in a waiting room with families of other men and women undergoing heart surgery. In the process I gained some new insights that I’m currently working into another post.

While doing this, however, I thought of something I had written for the original, pre-blog “Filings” a few years ago that seemed to gain additional resonance as we waited with others for word on matters of life and death. I offer these questions for now while I finish my more recent thoughts.

I was present at a couple of “good-byes” recently that really made me stop and say, “Hello.” One was a retirement party for a woman who was leaving a job after 27 years, and the other was a visitation for a man who left this earth after 38 years. I attended the two events one right after the other in the same evening. This unusual set of circumstances, and the overwhelming honor and esteem the two unrelated individuals were so obviously held in, helped me to rediscover the value of an old, old lesson.

Have you ever noticed how we judge others by their actions, yet expect others to judge us by our intentions?

The woman who’s retiring is a real sweetheart who always seems to have an encouraging word and a cheerful attitude, and a habit of doing quiet, thoughtful things for others. She’s always been wonderful to me, and of course I’ve thought that this is because I’m such a lovable guy myself. As I looked at the room overflowing with sincere well-wishers, the table piled with gifts, and the company choir that had come to sing for her, I was taken by the realization that she didn’t just treat me as special, she treated everyone as special. And of course it came back to her, in heaps.

By the time I made it to the visitation, there were lines of people extending out of two doors and well into the parking lot of the funeral home. The man who died had recently done a small favor for me, but I was there because he was the brother of a good friend. I had known he was active in the community, but I was unprepared for the large crowd of people of all ages who were there, so many of whom were obviously and profoundly grieved. As I beheld the ever-increasing crowd I, too, began to feel the loss – the loss of not having known this man myself.

The point here is that for these two people, touching others had obviously been a lifestyle and not a special event. Their good intentions were manifested in their lives, and I’ve got to believe that the blessings poured back into their lives over the years have been a result of this, and not the other way around.

This is not to say that the impact of our lives is ultimately measured by the number of people who show up at our retirement parties or funerals. At the same time, however, you don’t get large crowds of people who turn out to say, “You know, he really meant well.”

It’s true that God looks at the heart, but it’s also true that “out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks” (and you act). Has the impact of your life – in your home, your job, your church – lived up to your own intentions? How about God’s?

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